Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why consider Bulgaria as destination for post-retirement relocation?

Global Post top budget retirement destinations abroad

A report compiled by the Global Post at the beginning of 2010 has revealed the top ten best retirement destinations in the world for those who are seeking a high standard of living at an affordable price.

The report, which provides details of the best budget retirement locations, is based upon an analysis of the activities available in popular retirement destinations, the cost of maintaining a good standard of living and sustaining an “international lifestyle.”  The report utilized a Cost of Living Index that was generated by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which analyzed the cost of living in a given country with the typical costs one would find living in New York City.  The results of this were supplemented with the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures a country’s adult literacy, life expectancy and income levels.

Bulgaria, the only European destination to feature in the list of affordable destinations was cited as having "sandy beaches, snow-topped mountains, rich cultural heritage and cosmopolitan capital."  The report also commented that while Bulgaria’s location was within easy reach of other European destinations, the cost of living there was significantly lower, thus making it a more appealing retirement destination for expatriates.

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In addition to the report in the Global Post, Bulgaria has made the list of top property destinations for 2010 a report issued an independent UK property agent, Property Venture.  The company, which specializes in assisting buyers to purchase overseas property, commented on the attractiveness of the Bulgarian property market: “'with some of the major economies around the world struggling to shake off recession, investors might be wondering where to find an attractive overseas property market, or whether such a thing still exists at all.”

In the Global Post wording:

Retire in Bulgaria, and you can explore nine Unesco World Heritage Sites, visit quaint villages and lounge on long, sandy beaches. It is easy to travel to other European destinations, but you can live on much less in Bulgaria.
  • Activities: Sandy beaches, snow-topped mountains, rich cultural heritage, cosmopolitan capital
  • Cost of living: 66
  • Healthcare: Most physicians are highly trained, but many hospitals and clinics are not equipped to meet U.S. standards.
  • Human development index: 84.0
  • Weather: Temperate
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Why Bulgaria? Advantages & Disadvantages

As in any country, there are advantages and disadvantages to buying a home in Bulgaria, although the benefits for most people outweigh any drawbacks.
The country enjoys a mild climate for most of the year, with hot summers on the coast and sun and snow in the mountains. Access is getting easier and cheaper as more tourist operators fly to regional airports. Most charter companies fly direct to coastal and mountain resorts during the tourist season, and it’s likely that budget airlines will begin flights to the country now that it joined the EU.

Part of Bulgaria’s attraction is its status as a relatively unknown country, offering much to discover for those willing to spend the time: quaint rustic villages, elaborate churches and monasteries and spectacular natural scenery. In fact, Bulgaria offers a huge range of leisure and cultural activities.

Although Bulgarians have a reputation for being surly, this owes more to James Bond films than reality. Most Bulgarians will go out of their way to help you and, if you make an effort to learn some Bulgarian, you will be welcomed wherever you choose to buy your home.

All of life’s essentials (and most of the extras) are cheap and, although property prices are rising rapidly, they remain good value by western European (and particularly British) standards. Even if you plan to retire to Bulgaria and life off a foreign pension, you will be able to live well.

Other advantages to buying a home in Bulgaria include strong demand for rental accommodation in the resort towns, low maintenance and building costs, quality fresh food and impressive wines, a relaxed traditional pace of life in rural areas, great hiking and scenery in the interior, and beautiful, clean white sand beaches along the coast.

There are a few disadvantages as well, including communication problems if you don’t speak Bulgarian (and can’t read the Cyrillic alphabet), restrictions on land ownership, lack of flights in the “off” season, poor roads and infrastructure in some areas, overcrowding in popular tourist areas during the summer, and the expense of getting to Bulgaria if you won a holiday home there and don’t live in a nearby country with good air connections.

While much of Bulgaria is pristine forest and mountains, there are pockets of heavy industry, although this largely collapsed in the years following the demise of communism. For example, coal mining is still carried out on a small scale in the Pernik region, which has a legacy of pollution from the mining industry.

You should be especially careful if you’re considering buying property on the Black Sea coast south of Varna or south of Bourgas. Bourgas is home to a large commercial port and an oil refinery, while Varna has a huge port and naval base and the remains of Bulgaria’s shipbuilding industry, both of which can cause pollution.

Preparation steps to buy home in Bulgaria

Before setting up home in Bulgaria you need to be sure such a bold move is for you.
  • Think hard about what type of environment you want to live in - coastal, rural, urban or mountainous - and what type of Bulgarian home you desire.
  • Visit in summer and winter if possible. Whether you are buying a seaside, inland or mountain home in Bulgaria, you will then experience both the quiet and busy seasons.
  • Rent a villa or apartment in your chosen area for a few months before committing to buy. This allows you the experience of living in Bulgaria and seeing how homesick you are.
  • How´s your health? You need to consider the availability and proximity of medical services, and be aware that standards in Bulgaria are not as high as in the UK or the USA. Apart from emergency treatment, you also have to pay for all healthcare expenses when living in Bulgaria so comprehensive medical insurance could be worth having.

How to apply for a Long-stay visa and/or Residence Permit in Bulgaria?

Apply for a Long-stay (Type D) visa at the Ministry of Interior Affairs within 90 or 30 days of your arrival. An application requires a number of documents, including the following:
  • the application form and two passport-size photographs;
  • a current passport;
  • evidence of having formed a limited company, a certified copy of the company’s tax registration document and a court certificate that the company is solvent, and evidence that you’ve hired Bulgarian citizens;
  • a certificate from the National Social Security Institute that you’re contributing to social security and have no outstanding tax payments;
  • a certificate from the tax office showing the amount of taxes paid (if applicable);
  • a recent bank statement and a bank certificate that you’re solvent;
  • evidence of accommodation in Bulgaria and the address.
To apply for a residence permit, you must first obtain a Type D visa in your home country and then travel to Bulgaria. Once you arrive in Bulgaria, you should apply for the appropriate residence permit as soon as possible.

The decision takes around seven days and, if you’re successful, your passport will be stamped to show that you’ve been granted a residence permit, so you will be able to leave the country and return when you need to. Note that the requirements for a Type D visa are the same as those for a residence permit - so if you’re successful in obtaining a Type D visa from a Bulgarian embassy or consulate, you should have no trouble obtaining a residence permit in Bulgaria.

Do you need to register when residing in Bulgaria?

All foreign nationals who have entered the territory of Bulgaria are obliged to register within 48 hours after their entry into the country. They have to register their address in Bulgaria either at the services for administrative control of foreign nationals, or at the nearest district police station, depending on the address where they are staying. This registration includes: full name, date of birth, citizenship, as well as the number and series of their identity documents. Address changes also have to be reported within 48 hours.

Natural persons or legal entities, which provide shelter to foreign nationals, are obliged to notify within 48 hours either the relevant service for administrative control of foreign nationals, or the nearest district police station. If a foreign national is staying in a hotel, the receptionists are obliged to perform this duty. If a foreign national is paying a private visit, the Bulgarian host is obliged to register the foreigner who is his guest.

How to settle permanently in Bulgaria?

The following categories of foreign nationals may obtain a permanent residence permit:
  • foreign nationals of Bulgarian origin;
  • foreign nationals who married either a Bulgarian national, or a foreign national residing permanently in Bulgaria since two years;
  • children and juveniles, whose parent is either a Bulgarian national, or a foreign national residing permanently in the country, and who are not married;
  • the parents of a Bulgarian national, if they are providing the alimony stipulated by force of the relevant legislation, or, in cases of adoption or fathering a child, three years after the adoption or fathering;
  • foreign nationals who have resided legally in the country for the last five years without travelling abroad;
  • foreign nationals who have invested in the country more than 250,000 US dollars in accordance with the legislation;
  • foreign nationals who have no Bulgarian origin but who were born in the Bulgarian territory, and having lost their Bulgarian citizenship under expatriation agreements or upon their own will, would like to settle permanently in the territory of Bulgaria;
  • foreign nationals who entered the territory of Bulgaria, reside in the country or were born here, before 27 December 1998, and whose parent married a Bulgarian national.

Sources and Additional Information:


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